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Open access

Edgar J. Gallardo and Andrew R. Coggan

Consumption of beetroot juice (BRJ) supplements has become popular among athletes because beets tend to be rich in nitrate (NO3 ), which can enhance exercise performance by increasing nitric oxide production. The NO3 content of beets can vary significantly, however, making it difficult to know how much NO3 any product actually contains. Samples from 45 different lots of 24 different BRJ products from 21 different companies were therefore analyzed for NO3 (and nitrite [NO2 ]) concentration using high-performance liquid chromatography. The NO3 and NO2 content (i.e., amount per serving) was then calculated based on either (a) the manufacturer’s recommended serving size (for prepackaged/single dose products) or (b) as used in previous studies, a volume of 500 ml (for BRJ sold in bulk containers). There was moderate-to-large variability in NO3 content between samples of the same product, with a mean coefficient of variation of 30% ± 26% (range 2–83%). There was even greater variability between products, with a ∼50-fold range in NO3 content between the lowest and highest. Only five products consistently provided ≥5 mmol of NO3 /serving, which seems to be the minimal dose required to enhance exercise performance in most individuals. NO2 contents were generally low (i.e., ≤0.5% compared with NO3 ), although two products contained 10% and 14%. The results of this study may be useful to athletes and their support staff contemplating which (if any) BRJ product to utilize. These data may also offer insight into variability in the literature with respect to the effects of BRJ on exercise performance.

Open access

Shona L. Halson, Alan G. Hahn, and Aaron J. Coutts

Open access

Trent Stellingwerff, Ingvill Måkestad Bovim, and Jamie Whitfield

Middle-distance runners utilize the full continuum of energy systems throughout training, and given the infinite competition tactical scenarios, this event group is highly complex from a performance intervention point of view. However, this complexity results in numerous potential periodized nutrition interventions to optimize middle-distance training adaptation and competition performance. Middle-distance race intensity is extreme, with 800- to 5,000-m races being at ∼95% to 130% of VO2max. Accordingly, elite middle-distance runners have primarily Type IIa/IIx fiber morphology and rely almost exclusively on carbohydrate (primarily muscle glycogen) metabolic pathways for producing adenosine triphosphate. Consequently, the principle nutritional interventions that should be emphasized are those that optimize muscle glycogen contents to support high glycolytic flux (resulting in very high lactate values, of >20 mmol/L in some athletes) with appropriate buffering capabilities, while optimizing power to weight ratios, all in a macro- and microperiodized manner. From youth to elite level, middle-distance athletes have arduous racing schedules (10–25 races/year), coupled with excessive global travel, which can take a physical and emotional toll. Accordingly, proactive and integrated nutrition planning can have a profound recovery effect over a long race season, as well as optimizing recovery during rounds of championship racing. Finally, with evidence-based implementation and an appropriate risk/reward assessment, several ergogenic aids may have an adaptive and/or performance-enhancing effect in the middle-distance athlete. Given that elite middle-distance athletes undertake ∼400 to 800 training sessions with 10–25 races/year, there are countless opportunities to implement various periodized acute and chronic nutrition-based interventions to optimize performance.

Open access

Louise M. Burke, Asker E. Jeukendrup, Andrew M. Jones, and Martin Mooses

Distance events in Athletics include cross country, 10,000-m track race, half-marathon and marathon road races, and 20- and 50-km race walking events over different terrain and environmental conditions. Race times for elite performers span ∼26 min to >4 hr, with key factors for success being a high aerobic power, the ability to exercise at a large fraction of this power, and high running/walking economy. Nutrition-related contributors include body mass and anthropometry, capacity to use fuels, particularly carbohydrate (CHO) to produce adenosine triphosphate economically over the duration of the event, and maintenance of reasonable hydration status in the face of sweat losses induced by exercise intensity and the environment. Race nutrition strategies include CHO-rich eating in the hours per days prior to the event to store glycogen in amounts sufficient for event fuel needs, and in some cases, in-race consumption of CHO and fluid to offset event losses. Beneficial CHO intakes range from small amounts, including mouth rinsing, in the case of shorter events to high rates of intake (75–90 g/hr) in the longest races. A personalized and practiced race nutrition plan should balance the benefits of fluid and CHO consumed within practical opportunities, against the time, cost, and risk of gut discomfort. In hot environments, prerace hyperhydration or cooling strategies may provide a small but useful offset to the accrued thermal challenge and fluid deficit. Sports foods (drinks, gels, etc.) may assist in meeting training/race nutrition plans, with caffeine, and, perhaps nitrate being used as evidence-based performance supplements.

Open access

Dana M. Lis, Daniel Kings, and D. Enette Larson-Meyer

Some track-and-field athletes implement special diets aiming to improve health and/or performance. An evidence-based approach to any diet is recommended to minimize the risks associated with unnecessary dietary restriction, which may potentially do more harm than good. Four prevalent diets are reviewed in this study: (a) gluten-free; (b) low fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (FODMAP); (c) vegetarian; and (d) fasting diets. Recently, gluten-free diets and low FODMAP diets have emerged as novel regimes thought to improve gastrointestinal health and reduce the risk of exercise-associated gastrointestinal symptoms. No direct beneficial outcomes have been associated with avoiding gluten for clinically healthy athletes. Indirectly, a gluten-free diet is associated with other dietary changes, particularly FODMAP reduction, which may improve adverse gastrointestinal symptoms. Vegetarian diets can optimally support athletic demands. However, attention is required to ensure adequate energy and intake of specific nutrients that are less abundant or less well absorbed from plant sources. Finally, fasting is a long-standing concept that is undertaken on a voluntary and obligatory basis. Despite limited supporting research, voluntary fasting is a popular alternative to conventional diets perceptually offering health and body composition benefits. Strict obligatory fasting guidelines likely require the implementation of tailored nutrition strategies to help athletes cope with athletic demands. Overall, a multitude of factors influence adherence to special diets. Even when adherence to a special diet is a necessity, education and advice from an accredited dietitian/nutritionist are recommended for track-and-field athletes to optimize nutrition for health and performance.

Open access

Oliver C. Witard, Ina Garthe, and Stuart M. Phillips

Track and field athletes engage in vigorous training that places stress on physiological systems requiring nutritional support for optimal recovery. Of paramount importance when optimizing recovery nutrition are rehydration and refueling which are covered in other papers in this volume. Here, we highlight the benefits for dietary protein intake over and above requirements set out in various countries at ∼0.8–1.0 g·kg body mass (BM)−1·day−1 for training adaptation, manipulating body composition, and optimizing performance in track and field athletes. To facilitate the remodeling of protein-containing structures, which are turning over rapidly due to their training volumes, track and field athletes with the goal of weight maintenance or weight gain should aim for protein intakes of ∼1.6 g·kg BM−1·day−1. Protein intakes at this level would not necessarily require an overemphasis on protein-containing foods and, beyond convenience, does not suggest a need to use protein or amino acid-based supplements. This review also highlights that optimal protein intakes may exceed 1.6 g·kg BM−1·day−1 for athletes who are restricting energy intake and attempting to minimize loss of lean BM. We discuss the underpinning rationale for weight loss in track and field athletes, explaining changes in metabolic pathways that occur in response to energy restriction when manipulating protein intake and training. Finally, this review offers practical advice on protein intakes that warrant consideration in allowing an optimal adaptive response for track and field athletes seeking to train effectively and to lose fat mass while energy restricted with minimal (or no) loss of lean BM.

Open access

Anna K. Melin, Ida A. Heikura, Adam Tenforde, and Margo Mountjoy

The reported prevalence of low energy availability (LEA) in female and male track and field athletes is between 18% and 58% with the highest prevalence among athletes in endurance and jump events. In male athletes, LEA may result in reduced testosterone levels and libido along with impaired training capacity. In female track and field athletes, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea as consequence of LEA has been reported among 60% of elite middle- and long-distance athletes and 23% among elite sprinters. Health concerns with functional hypothalamic amenorrhea include impaired bone health, elevated risk for bone stress injury, and cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, LEA negatively affects recovery, muscle mass, neuromuscular function, and increases the risk of injuries and illness that may affect performance negatively. LEA in track and field athletes may occur due to intentional alterations in body mass or body composition, appetite changes, time constraints, or disordered eating behavior. Long-term LEA causes metabolic and physiological adaptations to prevent further weight loss, and athletes may therefore be weight stable yet have impaired physiological function secondary to LEA. Achieving or maintaining a lower body mass or fat levels through long-term LEA may therefore result in impaired health and performance as proposed in the Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport model. Preventive educational programs and screening to identify athletes with LEA are important for early intervention to prevent long-term secondary health consequences. Treatment for athletes is primarily to increase energy availability and often requires a team approach including a sport physician, sports dietitian, physiologist, and psychologist.

Open access

Lindy M. Castell, David C. Nieman, Stéphane Bermon, and Peter Peeling

The main focus of this review is illness among elite athletes, how and why it occurs, and whether any measures can be taken to combat it or to prevent its onset. In particular, there is particular interest in exercise-induced immunodepression, which is a result of the immune system regarding exercise (e.g., prolonged, exhaustive exercise) as a challenge to its function. This promotes the inflammatory response. There is often a high incidence of illness in athletes after undertaking strenuous exercise, particularly among those competing in endurance events, not only mainly in terms of upper respiratory tract illness, but also involving gastrointestinal problems. It may well be that this high incidence is largely due to insufficient recovery time being allowed after, for example, a marathon, a triathlon, or other endurance events. Two examples of the incidence of upper respiratory tract illness in moderate versus endurance exercise are provided. In recent years, increasing numbers of research studies have investigated the origins, symptoms, and incidence of these bouts of illness and have attempted to alleviate the symptoms with supplements, sports foods, or immunonutrition. One aspect of the present review discusses iron deficiency, which has been primarily suggested to have an impact upon cell-mediated immunity. Immunonutrition is also discussed, as are new techniques for investigating links between metabolism and immune function.